“In a New York minute, everything can change. In a New York minute, things can get pretty strange. In a New York minute, everything can change in a New York minute.”
Don Henley couldn't have put it any better in his iconic song. On Sunday morning, I was supposed to run the Washington Heights 5km. Key words there being supposed to.
I had never run the course before, but after reading it was a 5km block party and finding out two good friends of mine from the area were running it, I was particularly looking forward to it. But things change, especially in a New York minute.
Let's rewind to Thursday night. After work, I set out to do interval training, as per instructed as part of my Queen's Marathon training plan using NYRR's Virtual Training Program. So – after layering up with some compression clothes – Under Armour and Asics – I set off to the waterfront at Long Island City to 'put the work in.'
On deck for this workout was the following: Warmup of 1.5 miles at 8:46-9:25 mile pace, followed by eight 1000m intervals at a pace of 5:07 or so for them. Followed by a warmdown of 1 mile.
The reason I chose LIC to do the intervals is because of the flat surface along the waterfront and also because it's a well-lit area. Apart from a cold wind chill, which was causing my nose to run like a tap, everything was going well – exceedingly so. There's several runs that really prepare you for the complexities of a marathon. Regular runs, where you are tired and just not bothered, but struggle through it and finish strong are a good example of runs that get you marathon ready.
Grueling long runs, where you empty the tank of a Saturday or Sunday morning in the early hours to log double-digit miles are another. Intervals, too, are key. Picking up the pace and running on tired legs trains you mentally more than anything.
On Thursday night, I was bursting through the windchill and thinking solely about the Queens Marathon on April 30 as I recorded these times: 4:59, 4:53, 4:53, 4:57, 4:48, 4:57, and 4:57 for my first seven intervals. I was ahead of schedule, feeling good, and had plenty left in the tank. I even stopped between one interval to take this pic! Life was good!
But, in a cruel twist of fate, my last interval of 1000m took 7:12. So what happened there then? Well, in a New York minute, everything changed.
I was running north, up a one-way street, hitting the pavement pretty hard when suddenly the pavement was cut off by a large skip, which was being use to store a lot of stuff from a building that was being renovated. So I had to adjust slightly and run on the road in order to get around it. After waiting a few seconds for a car to go by, which I was running parallel with and going in the same northbound direction, I looked back to see if any more cars were coming my way. There wasn't so I carried on running and made my way out onto the road. Only to be knocked full force to the road.
When you are out running and going at about 60% full throttle, a sudden change in motion can cause some distress on the joints. Being knocked on your arse onto a cold, unforgiving road caused a shock to the system. In the sudden aftermath, as I tried to make sense of it all, through blurred vision, I could sense a voice from above. No it wasn't God, it was the person who knocked me down. I could barely hear him as his muted voice clashed with the music still running in my ears. I gingerly touched my ears to realize I had one headphone still connected to my right ear. The left part, I didn't know where it was.
With a shaky hand, I struggled, but took the right ear bud out and pulled myself off the ground and came face to face with whoever this person was. Turns out, it was a bicycle deliveryman for a takeout restaurant. He, too, seemed shook up, but he was more than keen to get out of dodge as after asking me if I was OK, he gathered his belongings – the food he was delivering crashed to the floor – and sheepishly, carried on his merry way. After a few moments of trying to piece together what the hell just happened, I didn't know what else to do, so I continued on and ran home. With my body in a bit of pain, I thought if I walked, it would take longer so I sluggishly ran 1.3 miles home.
And yet this happened despite me being dressed like a Christmas tree, wearing luminous, reflective gear. Guess that didn't work on this occasion. Looking back, I can only conclude that I went headfirst into his shoulder as he came down the street – the wrong way – and that the front of his bike hit my leg. Damage wise, we both came out very fortunate. I mean, my head is massive – just look at the pictures – so how there was not more damage done, I'll never know. It's miraculous that there were no broken bones, an eye socket or even missing teeth considering the high impact of the clash and the force we both hit each other with.
Also, when I crashed to the ground, I somehow landed, quite fortunately, square on my ass and didn't fall back any further. If I did, my head would have bounced off the ground in a way that would have been none too pleasant. Afterward, I immediately thought of my Irish compatriot Bono, who last year suffered multiple injuries when he had an accident – to be fair he was cycling when he collided with another biker – but you know what I mean. Anyways, I thought I had escaped with a lovely bruise and scratches on my face. But little did I know what was set to come in the next day or two.
When I got home, the Muffin nursed me back to health by giving me dinner and looking to see if I had any other bumps, bruises, or cuts (above). But she did warn me: “Your body will feel this tomorrow.”
At the time, I didn't really know what she meant, but the next day, Christ on a bike, I felt it. My body was aching from head to toe and I felt exhausted. I went into full trooper mode and made it through work, but come 6pm, I had developed a full 'man cold.' My body was basically saying: “Enough is enough. Let's shut this shit down for a few days.”
By Saturday, my throat was closing at various times and my sinuses were acting the bollocks, which left me useless for the majority of the day. After numerous bowls of ice cream to soothe my throat and various doses of cold and flu pills that had varying degrees of success, the decision was made with a heavy heart to abandon the Washington Heights 5km. Probably best I did as I didn't wake up on Sunday until 11am, and even then, I still felt lousy.
In my dreams though, I PR'ed at the Washington Heights 5km and race the race of my life, but that could have been the concoction of pills and medicine I took the day before. So yeah, Don Henley was right. In a New York minute, everything can change. One minute I was about to finish an awesome interval workout, the next I found knocked on my arse on a cold, unforgiving concrete road, in pain and wondering where I was. Be careful out there runners on the roads and pavements, as everything can change just like that.